Results tagged ‘ Jered Weaver ’

Shoemaker on bereavement list, Tropeano up

Nick Tropeano was called up from Triple-A Salt Lake and will start Thursday’s series finale against the A’s, with C.J. Wilson getting pushed back to Saturday’s start against the Rangers. Wilson came out of his last start with stiffness in his left (pitching) elbow, but Angels manager Mike Scioscia said it’s nothing serious and he could’ve taken his normal turn on Thursday if needed.

Pushing Wilson back also buys extra time for Matt Shoemaker, who was placed on the bereavement list to deal with the death of his grandfather. Shoemaker was originally slated to make that Saturday start, but is now tentatively slated for next Wednesday’s game in Oakland, putting him on extended rest a second straight time. Shoemaker pitched on six days’ rest Monday, giving up five runs in three innings, and would be on eight days’ rest Wednesday.

Garrett Richards, Hector Santiago and Jered Weaver will keep their normal turns. So, here’s the order …

Thursday: Tropeano
Friday: Richards
Saturday: Wilson
Sunday: Santiago
Monday: OFF
Tuesday: Weaver (starting tonight)
Wednesday: Shoemaker

Tropeano has given up five runs on 10 hits and two walks in 11 innings during his first two starts for Triple-A Salt Lake, striking out 12.

“I think I just need to keep working hard and showing consistency,” Tropeano said. “Going down to Triple-A, getting those innings in and getting that work in kind of matured me and sent me into this spot now.”

Some additional notes …

  • Scioscia said the date of Josh Hamilton‘s arrival in Arizona for extended spring is “really fluid.” “It could happen this weekend, it could happen next week. But the process is there. He’s going to be evaluated. The process is starting.”
  • Cam Bedrosian pitched two scoreless innings of mop-up duty on Tuesday and has been used as a multi-inning reliever since going down to Minor League camp midway through Spring Training, compiling eight innings in four appearances. Scioscia said Bedrosian has “the potential to be in the back end of the bullpen, but right now he needs a little bit of length to do the kind of things he did last night.”
  • C.J. Cron had only his second multi-hit game of the season on Tuesday, then found himself out of the lineup on Wednesday. Scioscia opted to go with Collin Cowgill as his right-handed hitter against Sonny Gray — with the left-handed-hitting Matt Joyce at DH, but dropped from fourth to sixth against a right-hander — to get better defense in left field for Weaver, a fly-ball pitcher.

Alden

Angels takeaways, Week 1 …

joshThe Angels just got swept! At home! To the team that swept them last October! And now they’re under .500! Another slow start! Why, God, why!?

Perspective is an invaluable trait this time of year. Six games have been played, which accounts for 3.09 percent of the regular season. Teams will get hot, then cold, then hot, then cold again. The season is that long. And the hope of every club, as Angels catcher Chris Iannetta likes to frequently point out, is to stay within reach for most of the year and get hot late. That’s what the 2014 Angels did, on their way to a Major League-best 98 wins. That’s what the 2015 Angels hope to do, at 2-4 entering a six-game road trip through Arlington and Houston.

Here are some takeaways from the first full week of real games …

Hamilton situation is getting ugly: For a while now, people around the team had been getting the impression that there was a strong chance Josh Hamilton would never play a game for the Angels again. Those sentiments were essentially confirmed on Friday, when owner Arte Moreno couldn’t guarantee that Hamilton would rejoin the team and talked about pursuing action against the high-priced outfielder for his drug-related relapse. Nobody from Hamilton’s camp — himself or his agent — has spoken up. But on Saturday, Angels starter C.J. Wilson expressed displeasure in the Angels’ comments, telling the LA Times, “It doesn’t seem like any bridges are being built,” and telling the OC Register, “If Josh was hitting .300 with 35 home runs a year, what’s the situation?”

From the outside, it seems as if this whole Hamilton saga — however it ends — is a huge distraction for the team, one that has divided the players from ownership. Personally, I don’t think so. I don’t think Wilson’s anger is necessarily felt by the rest of his teammates. They all love Hamilton as a person — how can you not? — but it’s not as if they’re clamoring to get him back, or are upset he isn’t being given a second chance. Sad as this may sound, it all comes back to production, and Hamilton hasn’t produced for them the last two years. Wilson is closer to Hamilton than anybody on the Angels, dating back to their days with the Rangers. He looks at it a little bit more personally. The rest of the team pretty much looks at it like this: We hope the best for Hamilton and his family off the field, but on the field, we’re fine without him.

That doesn’t mean this isn’t a contentious situation, however. Moreno clearly wants to negotiate some sort of buyout or trade here, but this could be a long, drawn-out battle. Hamilton is owed — no, guaranteed — $83 million through the 2017 season. So why would he take a penny less? Perhaps so he could join another team to continue his career, since Moreno has pretty much made it clear it won’t happen with the Angels. But how much is that worth, in terms of a discount for the Angels? Over the weekend, the Angels are in Houston, the city where Hamilton has been rehabbing from shoulder surgery since early February. The team doesn’t expect to see him. It’s awkward.

Weaver shaky: In his first two starts of the season, Jered Weaver has given up 10 runs on 15 hits (three of them homers) in 10 1/3 innings, prompting the national freakout that has pretty much become an April tradition. His velocity is down again, which is perhaps of most relevance. It’s 84.01 mph on his fastball, after being 87.5 mph in 2014, 87.3 mph in 2013, 88.7 mph in 2012 and 90.1 mph in 2011. Weaver has proven time and time again that he doesn’t need an overpowering fastball to be a reliable, top-of-the-rotation starter. And as Eric Hosmer pointed out to Lyle Spencer after Weaver’s rough start on Saturday, Weaver’s fastball plays up because of his length and delivery (even to a left-handed hitter, apparently).

The only thing you typically care about with Weaver — and the reason being three ticks down is a red flag — is that his right arm is healthy. He started slow last year, too, with a 5.79 ERA after three starts. And eventually he figured it out and turned in a very solid year. His velocity may not be debilitating, but it makes him have to be almost precise with his location and command. And because his delivery has so many moving parts, sometimes it takes him a while to get everything in sync with his release point and his landing leg. Eventually, though, he gets it. And when he does, his fastball velocity picks up a tick or two, like it did down the stretch last season. But the velo has never been as low as it has these last two starts. It’s worth monitoring.

Punchless out of the gate: So far, the same Angels offense that led the Majors in runs last season is 25th in the Majors in OPS (.577), tied for 25th in runs (16) and tied for 28th in batting average (.195). They have four hits in 23 at-bats with runners in scoring position and they haven’t stolen a single base. C.J. Cron is 0-for-13 after a hot spring, while Iannetta is 1-for-18 with 10 — yes, 10 — strikeouts. But hey, it’s really, really early. The Nationals have scored only 13 runs all year, and they’re going to be a juggernaut. The Angels’ offense should eventually be pretty darn good, too. A little slump coming out of spring is nothing six games in Texas can’t fix.

Reinforcements on the way: One aspect that was continually touted about the Angels heading in was their improved starting-pitching depth, and how they were no longer in deep trouble if one of their original five — or in this case, four — struggled. We may see that materialize pretty soon. Garrett Richards is slated for what very well could be his final step on Tuesday, a rehab start for Triple-A Salt Lake, and could return to the rotation by early next week. And the two rotation candidates of Spring Training, Andrew Heaney and Nick Tropeano, have thrown well in Triple-A. Heaney pitched seven shutout innings, giving up two hits, walking none and striking out eight. Tropeano pitched six innings of three-run ball, giving up two hits, walking none and striking out seven.

On the Major League side, Wilson was great on Tuesday (eight shutout innings with less than 100 pitches), but really bad on Sunday (seven runs on nine hits in 5 2/3 innings). Hector Santiago pitched well in Friday’s home opener, but he needed 100 pitches to record 16 outs. The Angels’ ideal pitching staff has Santiago in the bullpen as a dynamic lefty weapon, but that will only be the case if Heaney or Tropeano force their way into the big leagues. They need to prove that with more than one start.

Matchup bullpen taking shape: So far, though, their two current lefty relievers, Cesar Ramos and Jose Alvarez, are getting the job done. A real difference maker for the Angels this season is having Joe Smith and Huston Street entrenched as the eighth- and ninth-inning relievers. It not only solidifies the last six outs of a lead; it gives Mike Scioscia the freedom to match up in the seventh or earlier. That’s when Ramos and Alvarez can come into play against lefties, with Mike Morin being the go-to guy against righties. The two have combined to hold lefties to two hits and no walks in nine at-bats, striking out three. Neither are traditional lefty specialists. Alvarez is a last-minute converted starter; Ramos has been used mainly in multi-inning roles throughout his career. But it’d be big for the Angels if they can be effective against lefties. There are a lot of dangerous left-handed hitters in the American League West.

Alden

Richards’ return, MiLB Opening Day, new grub …

Garrett RichardsGarrett Richards pitched seven innings during an intrasquad game in Arizona on Thursday, giving up two runs on four hits, walking three, striking out 12 and throwing 96 pitches.

The 26-year-old right-hander is next slated to make a Minor League start on April 14 (the first day the Angels need a fifth starter, with Drew Rucinski likely taking the ball in Texas that day). If all goes well, the next step after that for Richards would be returning to the rotation.

My educated guess on when Richards returns to the rotation: April 21.

Another off day on the 16th creates a lot of flexibility, but I’d guess Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Matt Shoemaker pitch the three-game, weekend series in Houston April 17-19 on five days’ rest, then Hector Santiago takes the ball at home against the A’s on Monday, April 20, on the regular four days’ rest. That means Richards starts the next day (again, barring a setback). It would put Richards on six days’ rest heading into his first start, which is time to throw a longer bullpen session to make certain that he’s right.

The Minor League season began Thursday, while the Angels were off. Here’s a look at what the Triple-A Salt Lake roster looks like (this is as strong a group as they’ve had in a while; a testament to the depth the front office has built) …

Catchers: Jett Bandy, Charlie Cutler, Carlos Perez
Infielders: Travis Adair (2B)*, Marc Krauss (1B/LF/RF), Kyle Kubitza (3B), Josh Rutledge (SS), Ryan Wheeler (1B/3B), Alex Yarbrough (2B)
Outfielders: Grant Green (LF/2B/3B/SS), Roger Kieschnick (LF/CF/RF), Alfredo Marte (LF/CF/RF), Daniel Robertson (LF/CF/RF)
Rotation (in order): LH Adam Wilk, LH Andrew Heaney, RH Nick Tropeano, RH Alex Sanabia, RH Zach Stewart
Bullpen: RH Cam Bedrosian, RH Steve Hensley, RH Frank Herrmann, LH Edgar Ibarra, RH Ryan Mattheus, RH Jeremy McBryde, LH Atahualpa Severino, LH Scott Snodgress

And here’s a look at how each of the Angels’ Top 30 Prospects did in their 2015 debuts (the top prospect, Heaney, starts Friday) …

Angels Spring Baseball2: SP Sean Newcomb (Class A Burlington): 5 IP, 1 ER, 2 H, 2 BB, 9 SO
3: SS Roberto Baldoquin (Class A Inland Empire): 0-for-4, 3 SO
6: Bedrosian (Triple-A Salt Lake): 1 2/3 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 0 BB, 1 SO
7: Kubitza (Triple-A Salt Lake): 1-for-3, 2B, BB, SO
8: SP Nate Smith (Double-A Arkansas): 6 IP, 3 ER, 6 H, 1 BB, 6 SO
10: SP Chris Ellis (Class A Inland Empire): 5 IP, 3 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 7 SO
14: Yarbrough (Triple-A Salt Lake): 2-for-5, 2 SO
16: 3B Kaleb Cowart (Class A Inland Empire): 2-for-4
18: OF Natanael Delgado (Class A Burlington): 0-for-4, RBI, 2 SO
20: Perez (Triple-A Salt Lake): 1-for-4
23: SS Eric Stamets (Double-A Arkansas): 1-for-4
28: 2B Kody Eaves (Class A Inland Empire): 0-for-4, 2 SO

* on the 7-day DL

angel20stadium20outside20night

The Angels’ home opener is today, against the Royals team that swept them out of the ALDS last year. Mike Witt will throw out the ceremonial first pitch. In response to Major League Baseball’s screening mandate, metal detectors have been installed throughout the ballpark. To allow for more time, gates are opening two hours before game time this year, an extra half-hour.

Here’s a look at what’s new with Angels concessions, with information passed along by the Angels’ catering company, Legends Hospitality …

Smoke Ring BBQ Express: Located on Section 237, on the Terrace Level; previously a video game location; features their signature Smoke Ring BBQ Brisket Sandwich.

“A” Wine Cellar: Positioned next to the Oakley store in Section 111 on the main Field Level; features a wide variety of wine by the bottle, served in a souvenir Angels-branded wine decanter; Great American Wine and Woodwork wines offered by the glass; new lounge space located directly across, with three flat-screen TV’s showing the game.

SHOCK TOP Brew Pub: Previously Knothole Club; new items — beer-battered jidori chicken breast, with smoked jalapeño aoli and pickled cabbage slaw on a brioche bun; house-made Bavarian-style soft pretzel sticks, with sweet butter, meld on sea salt and SHOCK TOP beer cheese.

Battered Up: Located at the first- and third-base food courts; previously Jack In The Box; features OC Fair-type food, like funnel cake fries, corn dogs, churros, garlic and regular fries and chicken tenders.

Burger Bites: Previously Jack In The Box; now a destination for burger sliders, served on Hawaiian King Rolls with cheddar cheese and special sauce.

Acai Bowls: Located at Melissa’s window on the third-base food court on Field Level; healthy Brazilian power fruit dessert, with fresh bananas, strawberries, granola and honey.

Hand Dipped Ice Cream: Both club level concession stands, in Sections 317 and 334, will now feature hand-dipped ice cream on waffle bowls.

Nicky Enzo’s Italian Water Ice: Frozen dessert now available on the Terrace Level Concourse on Section 229.

Legends Dog: A foot-long hot dog topped with Smoke Ring BBQ brisket; it was a “secret” item last year that became a favorite, so they’ve added it to the Smoke Ring BBQ on Gate 1 and the Farmer John BBQ stand in Section 242.

Nacho Dog: Available at the Nacho Nachos stand on Section 424, View Level; a foot long hot dog topped with nacho cheese, guacamole and pico de gallo.

Ketel One Club: Previously HALO CLUB; new happy-hour pricing, with hand-rolled sushi station.

Diamond Club: New offerings — nachos with queso fundido, house-made chorizo, pickled onion, cilantro and avocado salsa; fried cashews; house-made potato chips; and carnitas tostadas, with pork cheek, pickled onion and salsa verde.

Alden

Lineups and Notes, Game 3 …

The Angels have been a target of heavy scrutiny of late, with many criticizing their response to news that Josh Hamilton wouldn’t be suspended and some even suggesting that they leaked news of Hamilton’s situation, which violates the collectively bargained Joint Drug Agreement.

But Commissioner Rob Manfred indicated Wednesday that Major League Baseball is not investigating the Angels for alleged leaks, saying, “I have no reason to believe that the Angels did anything inappropriate.”

An arbitrator ruled Friday that Hamilton would not be suspended for a drug-related relapse, mainly because he self-reported the issue before a failed drug test. A statement written under general manager Jerry Dipoto said the Angels were “disappointed” in Hamilton. President John Carpino said, “It defies logic that Josh’s reported behavior is not a violation of his current program.”

Asked if he believes those comments will make it difficult for Hamilton to play for the Angels, Manfred said: “I’m sure that the club and the player will find a way to work together going forward. I don’t think it’s as serious a problem as a go-forward basis as it might appear to some.”

The Angels don’t have any further updates on Hamilton, but they’ll be in Houston next week, where Hamilton has been rehabbing from shoulder surgery since the team began Spring Training.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia doesn’t know if Hamilton will even be around the team then.

“I think right now the most important thing for Josh is to make sure he’s getting the help he needs, getting the support,” Scioscia said. “That’s where our concerns are. Well touch base with him.”

Angels (1-1)

Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Matt Joyce, DH
David Freese, 3B
Erick Aybar, SS
Chris Iannetta, C
Efren Navarro, LF
Johnny Giavotella, 2B

SP: RH Matt Shoemaker (0-0, -.– ERA)

Mariners (1-1)

Austin Jackson, CF
Dustin Ackley, LF
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nelson Cruz, RF
Kyle Seager, 3B
Rickie Weeks, DH
Logan Morrison, 1B
Mike Zunino, C
Brad Miller, SS

SP: Hisashi Iwakuma (0-0, -.– ERA)

Brooks Baseball had Jered Weaver averaging 83.5 mph on his fastball on Opening Day, which would be the slowest average fastball velocity of his career. Scioscia said he isn’t concerned: “It points more toward being in sync mechanically than anything else. He was missing up a lot, never really got his changeup into the game like he can. I wouldn’t say there’s any red flags. The way he finished up last year and the crispness he showed at times in the spring, hell get it.”

Alden

Lineups and Notes, Opening Day edition …

It sounds crazy, but this is the first time in seven years that Seattle — cool city, great ballpark, retractable roof — has hosted an Opening Day. On this day 38 years ago, Frank Tanana pitched a shutout in Seattle in a 7-0 win for the Angels. The Angels have won nine of their last 11 Opening Days, but lost last year. In fact, the Mariners swept the Angels at Angel Stadium to open the 2014 season, outscoring them by 18 runs in the process.

Jered Weaver (seven) is tied for the third-most Opening Day starts since 2006, along with James Shields, Justin Verlander and Roy Halladay. The only two ahead of him are CC Sabathia (nine) and his Monday opponent, Felix Hernandez (eight). With Johnny Giavotella, 2015 marks the first time the Angels have had an Opening Day second baseman not named Howie Kendrick since Maicer Izturis in 2006.

The Mariners have been the Angels’ most frequent Opening Day opponent. They’re 6-4 against them to start the season, but were 7-12 against them last year. Weaver is 3-2 with a 2.31 ERA on Opening Day, 14-10 with a 3.37 ERA against the Mariners and 7-8 with a 4.49 ERA at Safeco Field.

Here are the lineups …

Angels (0-0)

Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Matt Joyce, LF
David Freese, 3B
Erick Aybar, SS
C.J. Cron, DH
Chris Iannetta, C
Giavotella, 2B

SP: RH Weaver (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Mariners (0-0)

Austin Jackson, CF
Seth Smith, RF
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nelson Cruz, DH
Kyle Seager, 3B
Logan Morrison, 1B
Mike Zunino, C
Dustin Ackley, LF
Brad Miller, SS

SP: RH Hernandez (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

  • It’ll be interesting to see how the Angels use Taylor Featherston. They like his skills defensively, but he’s never played above Double-A. I think we’re going to see him play some second base late, with the Angels pinch-hitting Giavotella against a tough right-handed reliever. “I think what he lacks in experience, his athleticism and talent will make up for,” Mike Scioscia said. “We’re not going to be afraid to use him.”
  • Scioscia is leaning towards Drew Rucinski to start on April 14, the first day the Angels need a fifth starter. Jose Alvarez is not stretched out enough, and Andrew Heaney and Nick Tropeano are not on schedule for that day.
  • Garrett Richards is here to take part in the Opening Day ceremonies. He’ll then pitch in a camp game on Thursday and start a rehab assignment April 14, though he could make only one start and then be available the next time through the order.
  • The seventh inning “is going to be a matchup” with the bullpen, Scioscia said. I expect Mike Morin to get most of the time there, but we could see Fernando Salas being used against lefties. He was pretty effective against them last year.
  • Will Cron be an everyday player, or will he sit against tough righties (today being an exception)? “I think C.J. will get a lion’s share of at-bats at first base and DH,” Scioscia said. “We gotta get bench guys in games, too, to make sure they’re sharp, keep starters fresh, but the plan is to get C.J. in there a lot. No doubt this spring he swung the bat better than last year. We want to give him a chance to contribute.”

Alden

And so it begins …

safeco-fieldOpening Day is finally here, and Safeco Field seems like a fitting place to start. It’s home to the team many have picked to win the American League West. And it kicks off with a matchup between Felix Hernandez and Jered Weaver, the two guys who have made the most consecutive Opening Day starts in the Majors (Hernandez at seven, Weaver at six).

But Opening Day is only a ceremonial thing. “One of 162,” as many say. The season is long and arduous. And by the end of it, what happens on Opening Day or even in the first series will be nothing but a distant memory (like last year, when the Mariners embarrassed the Angels with a lopsided sweep in Southern California at the start of April).

If the Angels want to win another division title, they’ll have to answer several questions over the course of these next six months. And below are the seven most prominent …

1. What becomes of Josh Hamilton?

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize the Angels aren’t necessarily in a welcoming mood with Hamilton, who’s still recovering from shoulder surgery and won’t be suspended for a self-reported drug relapse. The tone of their statements after news broke — and what they’ve said privately leading up to it — made you wonder if they even want him around. He’s a very likable guy, but he hasn’t lived up to his massive contract and his latest relapse struck a nerve with the Angels’ brass (make of that what you will). He won’t be going away, though. He’s owed $83 million over the next three years, so the Angels have to see what they get out of him. How does he fit into the roster? What type of production does he provide in his age-34 season? And how does he mesh with a team that may be better off without him? It’ll be the most fascinating storyline this season.

2. How good is Garrett Richards?

Richards has yet to allow a run in three Minor League outings and could return to the rotation by April 19 if all goes well, which means he basically misses only two starts. How good will he be upon returning, though? As good as he was leading up to the season-ending left knee injury he suffered Aug. 20? If so, this Angels rotation — with Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Matt Shoemaker and Hector Santiago set to open the season — is more dangerous than people think. If not, they’re very vulnerable. A lot rides on Richards’ 26-year-old right arm (not to mention that left knee).

3. What will the Angels get out of second base?

They aren’t fooling themselves into thinking they’ll replicate the production of Howie Kendrick. If C.J. Cron takes the next step in his maturation process (see: patience), David Freese stretches his last four months into a full season and Albert Pujols continues to look as good as he did this spring, they won’t need it. But replacement level production would be nice. Johnny Giavotella will get the first crack, but we may see many guys play second base this year.

4. Who gets the lefties out?

The Angels haven’t had a true lefty specialist since the 2012 version of Scott Downs, and Downs wasn’t really used as a lefty specialist. Last year, the Angels’ go-to reliever to get lefty hitters out was the right-handed Fernando Salas, who has a nice changeup that darts away from left-handed hitters. Ideally, they’d have that traditional left-on-lefty guy. Mike Scioscia has mentioned Cesar Ramos and Jose Alvarez as possibilities, but they’re multi-inning relievers who don’t have the big stuff that plays in that role. The next hope would be Santiago, but that would hinge on Andrew Heaney or Nick Tropeano developing well enough to warrant Santiago’s current rotation spot.

5. How do they upgrade the roster?

Even without saving any money on Hamilton’s contract, the Angels enter the season with $10 to $15 million of wiggle room. That’s what Arte Moreno said early in camp. It’s more payroll flexibility than they’ve had in a while, and they plan to use it. Question is, how? Do they get a second baseman, even though there aren’t many of them out there? (Chase Utley looks like a long shot, because of how intimidating his contract is and because of his no-trade clause). Do they get an outfield/DH bat? Do they get a starting pitcher (a lot of big names are entering their walk years)? Or do they add more bullpen pieces, like they did last year? June/July should be very eventful.

6. What kind of year does Mike Trout have?

You could reasonably expect a great one, considering he stays healthy. But how does he follow up a season that saw him win the AL MVP unanimously? We saw Trout transition into more of a power game last year, hitting more home runs and stealing fewer bases. But he’s only 23 years old, scary as that seems, and he’s still figuring out who he’s going to be in this game. My guess is he cuts down those strikeouts — I don’t know anyone who truly believes Trout is a 180-strikeout-a-year player — but doesn’t increase his stolen-base total by much. The Angels seem content with how often they sent Trout last year. Teams watch him closely and, far more relevant in this matter, steals cause a lot of wear and tear on the body.

7. Are the Angels better than the Mariners?

That’s probably what it’s going to come down to. The Mariners are a popular pick to win the division, because their rotation could be something fierce, their bullpen was one of the best in the game last season and their lineup got a big missing piece they needed in power hitter Nelson Cruz. But the Angels return the core group of a team that led the Majors in wins and finished second in run-differential last year. They’re starting a season with what should be a reliable bullpen for the first time since Jerry Dipoto came on board in October 2011 and they carry the confidence of succeeding with this group.

It should be interesting.

And to get you ready, here’s a look at our Opening Day content, in case you missed anything …

MORE LINKS! An updated depth chart is here, injury updates are here, pitching probables are here and a look at the top 30 prospects is here. You can follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. And you can subscribe to my weekly Angels podcast with Richard Justice here.

MLB.com compiled dozens of predictions on who will win each division, how the postseason will play out and where all the major individual awards will go. Below were my picks, if you’re interested …

NL East: Nationals
NL Central: Cardinals
NL West: Dodgers
AL East: Red Sox
AL Central: White Sox
AL West: Angels
NL Wild Cards: Marlins, Pirates
AL Wild Cards: Mariners, Indians
NL champion: Nationals
AL champion: Angels
World Series champion: Nationals
NL MVP: Giancarlo Stanton
NL Cy Young: Max Scherzer
NL Rookie of the Year: Kris Bryant
AL MVP: Josh Donaldson
AL Cy Young: Chris Sale
AL Rookie of the Year: Steven Souza

Feliz Opening Day!

Alden

April Come She Will …

Erick Aybar, Albert Pujols, Mike Trout

The Angels are playing their last Cactus League game from Arizona on Wednesday, after which they’ll commute to Southern California for the three-way, exhibition Freeway Series that spills into Opening Day in Seattle on Monday. 

Spring Training began with 61 (active) players, and now we’re down to 34 who will not be starting the season on the disabled list. That list has to be whittled down to 25 by Sunday. So, the Angels still have some things to work through the rest of this week. 

Here’s a look … 

Clarity on Hamilton: The Josh Hamilton situation has been hanging over the Angels like a dark cloud all spring. It hasn’t necessarily been a distraction; he hasn’t been here, and they’ve been going about their business as if he isn’t even on the roster. But they won’t be able to ignore it much longer. Rob Manfred said recently that a resolution should come before Opening Day, with Hamilton likely facing a suspension for what sources say was a drug-related relapse. The news will have a big impact on the Angels’ financial situation, and it’ll force them to make a big decision about how to fold Hamilton back in (if at all).

Extension for Street: Huston Street, acting as his own agent, has been mum on a potential extension with the Angels for a few weeks now. Word is that an extension is still a very real possibility, but the Angels are in a holding pattern until the Hamilton situation is resolved. The 31-year-old right-hander was initially seeking a four-year contract (though perhaps with 2015 included) that would pay him between $36 and $46 million. The only way he would negotiate past Opening Day is if both sides basically have the logistics already worked out.

Making the unofficial official: Mike Scioscia doesn’t like announcing anything until he absolutely has to, and he’ll make a lot of declarations once the Spring Training schedule ends on Saturday. Here’s what we pretty much know already, though …

  • Jered Weaver will be the Opening Day starter, with C.J. Wilson and Matt Shoemaker pitching the other two games in Seattle, respectively, and Hector Santiago getting the ball for the home opener against the Royals next Friday. With Adam Wainwright getting the nod for the Cardinals on Tuesday, Scioscia became the only manager who hasn’t announced his Opening Day starter. I told you he’s good at this.
  • The Angels will start the season with four starters and eight relief pitchers. They’re off after that season-opening three-game series in Seattle and they won’t need a fifth one until April 14. That means Weaver, Wilson and Shoemaker will make their second start on regular rest. We’ll get into who makes that start later.
  • Johnny Giavotella is the starting second baseman. Look no further than the fact that all four second-base candidates were in Wednesday’s lineup, and he was the only one at second base. Giavotella is out of options, has hit well this spring and has made the plays he should make. That was enough to win the job.
  • Andrew Heaney and Josh Rutledge will both start the season in Triple-A. Heaney entered camp as the presumed favorite for the fifth starter spot and Rutledge looked like the favorite to win the second base job. But they didn’t help their causes. Heaney, who will start Friday’s Freeway Series game, struggled to keep the ball down and allowed 19 runs on 29 hits in 19 innings. Rutledge, also going with the team to California, struggled with the mechanics of his swing and entered Wednesday with nine hits in 49 at-bats. It’s still a possibility Rutledge makes the team as the utility infielder, but that would mean the Angels lose Taylor Featherston, a Rule 5 pick who would have to be offered back to the Rockies. I’d be surprised if that happens.
  • Prospects Carlos Perez and Kyle Kubitza will also be optioned to the Minor Leagues. Perez is a solid defensive catcher, but the more seasoned Drew Butera (out of options) is the backup. Kubitza’s bat really came on late in spring, but he isn’t expected to take over for David Freese at third base until 2016.
  • Cory Rasmus (core injury), Garrett Richards (knee surgery) and Tyler Skaggs (Tommy John surgery) will be placed on the DL, with Rasmus expected to return around May, Richards in line to return in the middle of April and Skaggs missing the entire season.

The last roster spots: One bench spot and two bullpen spots still look pretty open. Lefties Jose Alvarez and Scott Snodgress and righties Drew Rucinski and Ryan Mattheus are still in camp and vying for the last two spots in the ‘pen, along with Street, Joe Smith, Fernando Salas, Mike Morin, Cesar Ramos and Vinnie Pestano. Right-handed hitters Grant Green (2B, SS, 3B, LF) and Daniel Robertson (LF, CF, RF) and left-handed hitters Marc Krauss (1B, LF, RF) and Efren Navarro (1B, LF, RF) are also vying for a bench spot, along with Butera, Featherston and Collin Cowgill. … My guesses: Alvarez and Rucinski both lock down the last two bullpen spots, even though both of them are starters. One is length out of the bullpen, the other potentially makes a spot start April 14. And Navarro takes the last bench spot. The Angels could use a left-handed hitter off the bench, and though Navarro doesn’t bring power like Krauss, he’s a disciplined hitter who has had a very nice spring. Back spasms may have kept Krauss from winning a job — though I expect him to contribute eventually.

Richards’ progress: Richards had yet another strong outing against Minor League hitters on Saturday, his second straight impressive one. He’ll pitch again on Thursday, then take a week off to pitch on April 9 and start a rehab assignment on April 14, which means the soonest he can return is April 19, Scioscia said from Arizona today. It’s still possible that Richards simply returns to the rotation on April 14, but the Angels have exercised a lot of caution, and Scioscia has hinted in the past that an April 14 return may be a little too ambitious.

Last but not least, my final Taco Power Rankings for 2015 …

1. Los Taquitos
2. The Mission
3. Taquitos Jalisco
4. El Hefe
5. Tortas El Rey
6. Sombrero’s Mexican Grill
7. Fuzzy’s Taco Shop
8. Comedor Guadelajara
9. Senor Taco
10. Carolina’s Mexican Food

Alden

The midway point …

Rangers Angels Spring BaseballWe’ve reached the midway point of the Angels’ Cactus League schedule. Whether that came fast or slow is merely a matter of your own perspective. But we’re here. 14 down, 14 to go, with an off day (sort of) conveniently placed in the middle and the three-game, exhibition Freeway Series following the Angels’ stint in Arizona.

Here’s what we’ve learned so far …

Second base really is wide open: And I’m not really sure if that’s good. Thing is, none of the three candidates for the everyday role have really stuck out. Grant Green (7-for-23) hasn’t looked comfortable defensively, Josh Rutledge (7-for-31, eight strikeouts) hasn’t hit and Johnny Giavotella (5-for-20) hasn’t done anything to wow you on either end. One guy who has looked good to me is Taylor Featherston, who’s being groomed for the utility-infield job. I like his defense, I like his speed, and his bat may be starting to come around. But I view second base the same way I did at the start of camp: We’ll either see a lot of different guys play the position this year, or we’ll see the Angels go after someone (Chase Utley?).

The rotation order is not: It’s pretty clear that, barring injury, the Angels’ rotation will line up in this order to start the season: Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Matt Shoemaker, Hector Santiago, Andrew Heaney. Yes, the fifth spot was deemed an open competition between Santiago, Heaney and Nick Tropeano, but here’s the thing: (1) Garrett Richards is pretty much guaranteed to start the season on the disabled list, because the Angels are being extra, extra cautious with his rehab, as expected; (2) with Richards on the DL, it’s senseless to have both Tropeano and Heaney in your rotation and Santiago in the ‘pen, as opposed to having Heaney or Tropeano in Triple-A, because it messes with your starting-pitching depth; (3) Heaney and Tropeano have been pitching on the same day, but Heaney started the first one, pitched the home half of a split squad in the second and will start against the Dodgers on Thursday, with Tropeano relegated to pitching in a “B” game. It’s Heaney’s spot to lose, and he’s done nothing to lose it thus far.

A big decision with Santiago awaits: Richards will be ready some time around the middle of April, if his rehab continues to go well. At that point, the Angels will have a big decision to make with Santiago, who has posted a 3.58 ERA in 106 games (51 starts) in the Majors the last three years. Do they keep him in the rotation and send Heaney (or Tropeano) to Triple-A? Do they move him to the bullpen, even though he seems somewhat redundant with Cesar Ramos (another lefty who pitches multiple innings and doesn’t profile as a left-on-left specialist)? Do they use him as trade bait? I can see any of those three scenarios taking place, but I’d be somewhat shocked if they sent him to Triple-A, like they did in May of last season.

The Angels will have two lineups: Assuming Rutledge gets the first crack at the second-base job (that’s what it’s looked like all along), this looks like the lineup against righties: Calhoun/Trout/Pujols/Joyce/Freese/Aybar/Cron/Iannetta/Rutledge. This looks like the one against lefties, on most days: Calhoun/Trout/Pujols/Freese/Aybar/Cron/Joyce/Iannetta/Rutledge. Mike Scioscia still needs to figure out how often he’ll use the right-handed-hitting Collin Cowgill to sit Matt Joyce against lefties, and whether he’ll have a left-handed bat to sit C.J. Cron against tough righties. And that brings me to my next point …

Efren Navarro looks like a good fit: I didn’t have Navarro in my projected Opening Day roster at the start of Cactus League games, mainly because I felt they’d keep Giavotella (out of options) to maintain as many options as possible for the second-base job. But Navarro looks like an ideal fit for the last bench spot. He’s a patient left-handed hitter who can sit Cron against tough righties, he plays great defense at first base and he’s more than adequate in the corner-outfield spots. Getting 10 hits in his first 26 at-bats hasn’t hurt, either.

Cory Rasmus won’t be a starting pitcher: Well, he won’t be in the traditional sense. Scioscia said recently that Rasmus won’t be stretched out to the 100-, 110-pitch range, but will still be stretched out somewhat in case the Angels need some length. This only validates what I anticipated all along: Rasmus will crack the Opening Day bullpen as a long reliever, basically being used in the same role he pitched in down the stretch last year. It’s a nice role for him.

Mike Trout is really good: He has 12 hits in his first 22 at-bats, and three of them have gone over fences. He also has the same amount of strikeouts as he has stolen bases (3). What else do you want?

Albert Pujols looks good: Several members of the Angels feel Pujols is poised for an even better year now that he’s even healthier in his lower half, and he’s looked good so far, going 8-for-25 and hitting the ball hard to right-center field. The latter is key for him.

David Freese is going to be really important: I think he’s the Angels’ most important everyday player, because they’ll be counting on him to provide additional pop in the middle with Howie Kendrick and Josh Hamilton not there and because he’ll probably be playing all nine innings now that the Angels don’t have a natural defensive sub. Of the four second base/utility infield candidates, Featherston has looked the best at third, but he hasn’t played above Double-A, so I doubt the Angels will be putting him in games with a one-run lead in the ninth.

Richards still throws hard: Besides occasionally having a hard time burying the breaking ball, Richards’ stuff has looked about as explosive as it usually does this spring, which is a very good sign.

Cron looks good: Sometimes he’ll strikeout chasing the fastball up near his head. You’re going to get that with Cron, who chased the same percentage of pitches outside the strike zone as Hamilton last season. But Cron has also driven the ball well this spring, hitting long home runs to left and some well-struck doubles to right-center. If Freese is the No. 1 most important member of the lineup, Cron is 1B. He’s the wild card.

It’s Lindstrom’s job to lose: if Rasmus is in the Opening Day bullpen, then only one spot is open (the others go to Huston Street, Joe Smith, Mike Morin, Fernando Salas and Ramos). Matt Lindstrom looks like an ideal candidate for that final spot, because he still throws pretty hard (few others in the ‘pen do), has a good track record and is an XX(B) free agent, which means he has the right to opt out of his contract (or make an additional $100,000 as a retention bonus) if not on the Opening Day roster. But he has to earn it. And aside from giving up two runs on three hits on March 12 — while pitching in the inning when Will Ferrell played center field — Lindstrom has looked good. If Lindstrom doesn’t make it, I expect Vinnie Pestano to be in the ‘pen. Pestano has options, though.

Alden

Smith returning from lower leg stiffness …

Rob Manfred couldn’t comment on Josh Hamilton‘s situation when asked about it from reporters at Dodgers camp on Monday morning. But Major League Baseball’s new Commissioner did state that he will be the one deciding on the length of a potential suspension from what sources say was a drug of abuse.

“I’m the decision maker on this one,” Manfred said.

The fact Hamilton is rehabbing from surgery on his right AC joint, and is in Houston rehabbing instead of being in Spring Training with the Angels, makes the timing of an eventual decision “a little more relaxed,” Manfred added.

Here’s the lineup against Hamilton’s former team, the Rangers …

Collin Cowgill, RF
Josh Rutledge, 3B
Matt Joyce, LF
C.J. Cron, DH
Chris Iannetta, C
Efren Navarro, 1B
Taylor Featherston, SS
Johnny Giavotella, 2B
Daniel Robertson, CF

SP: RH Jered Weaver

Angels setup man Joe Smith will make his Cactus League debut on Monday, after taking his time to make sure he was fully recovered from lower leg stiffness. If he takes just one day off in between the rest of the spring, Smith would make 10 appearances (including Wednesday’s off day, which he’s slated to pitch in). Typically, Smith likes to make eight appearances to feel ready.

“My arm’s still in shape,” Smith said. “I’ve still obviously been doing stuff. It just hasn’t been on the mound or game related. I’m not worried about the time. I know my body’s ready. My leg’s feeling just like normal. It was just trying to get that tightness out.”

Some additional notes …

  • The Angels made three more Spring Training cuts on Monday morning, with right-handed relievers Danny Reynolds, Jeremy McBryde and Frank Herrmann heading to Minor League camp.
  • The Angels’ annual Prospect Game – which is, of course, an intrasquad game with all their prospects – will take place Wednesday, March 25, at Tempe Diablo Stadium at 6 p.m. MT. It’s open to the public.
  • Fernando Salas and Cory Rasmus are also slated to pitch today. Mike Scioscia said Rasmus won’t be stretched out to the 100-pitch range this spring, so he won’t be treated as a traditional starter, but they’re making sure he has his length in case they need him for the rotation. I expect him to be in the bullpen as a long reliever to start the season.
  • Hector Santiago felt good a day after getting hit by a comebacker on the inside of his left forearm on Sunday, and Scioscia said he’ll throw his normal between-starts bullpen in anticipation of starting again on Friday.

Alden

ST Game No. 6: D-backs 6, Angels 5 …

Jered WeaverMost important thing: While giving up three runs on five hits and two walks in three-plus innings, Jered Weaver sat mostly 83-84 mph with his fastball, which is slow even by his standards. His average fastball velocity was 86.8 mph last year. But he usually doesn’t go full intensity until the end of Spring Training, so probably nothing to be alarmed about right now. Weaver has done pretty darn well without much velocity.

Second-most important thing: Matt Joyce went 2-for-3 to put his Cactus League batting average at .500. More importantly, one of those hits came off a lefty, a line-drive, opposite field single off D-backs starter Robbie Ray. If Joyce wants to start against lefties, and not get benched by Collin Cowgill in those situations, he’ll have to show he’s comfortable against them this spring.

Third-most important thing: Grant Green booted a routine grounder at second base and also couldn’t stop a short-hop throw from catcher Chris Iannetta, allowing the runner to take an extra base. Normally that’s no big deal this time of year, but Green can’t have these defensive issues if he wants to win the job as an everyday second baseman.

Fourth-most important thing: Albert Pujols went 1-for-3 with a hard lineout to first base and is batting .462 this spring. The Angels’ first baseman has hit at least .321 in Spring Training each of the last three years.

Fifth-most important thing: Jeremy McBryde, given a spot on the 40-man roster this offseason, gave up two unearned runs in the eighth inning and has allowed six runs four earned) on seven hits in 2 2/3 innings thus far.

Best defensive play (that I actually saw): Collin Cowgill made a nice diving catch on a sinking liner by Tuffy Gosewisch in the second inning.

Quotable: Mike Scioscia, when asked if Garrett Richards did his PFP at full intensity today: “For what he has, it’s enough. … He was never a burner anyway.”

Alden

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